6 Online Lead Generation Best Practices for Local Businesses

The key to lead generation is to match your marketing to your buyers’ behavior. And for your buyers, times are changing. In fact, according a new study released by Pew Internet, 51% of American adults get information about local businesses from the internet. This is even ahead of word-of-mouth at 22%. This trend indicates that it’s time to reach your buyers where they are – online.

It doesn’t take a big marketing budget or a large team for your small businesses to increase your local lead generation. Here are six best practices local businesses can use to generate more leads with inbound marketing.

1. Create a business website on your own domain

Some of you may think it’s silly I’m mentioning this, but shockingly, 40% of small businesses still don’t have a website! 80% of buyers research goods and services online before they make a purchasing decision, and they look at a company’s website as the main source of information. If your website doesn’t exist, you’re letting money slip through the cracks. Purchasing a domain name and hosting is relatively inexpensive these days, often costing less than what you’d pay for lunch.

2. Optimize your site for local search

78% of all website visits originate from an online search. This is why getting found in search engines is the #1 factor to increasing web traffic. Having a website isn’t a good enough strategy. You need to drive traffic to your website with search engine optimization (SEO). Amazingly, only 14% of small businesses have an SEO plan!

Since you target buyers in a specific region, it’s critical to optimize your website using geographic-specific keywords. For example, if you’re a painting company that serves the Boston area, include keywords on your website such as “Boston painting company,” “Boston area painter,” “Interior painting greater Boston,” “Painter eastern Mass,” and so on. Include these keywords where it matters most: in the page title, URL, header tags (H1, H2, etc.), body content and on-page links. Not an SEO expert? Read about 4 Simple Ways to Optimize Your Website for Local Search.

3. Start a blog

Another great way to generate traffic is to produce great content. You may have heard “content is king,” and in the online search world, it truly is. A business blog is a great way to talk about your local services and commitment to your local market. Share case studies or success stories of work you’ve done in the past in each town, city or county. Customers love being in the spotlight, so use your blog as an opportunity to showcase them and highlight your great work. Remember to use the geographic location in your blog title and URL and promote your blog to generate inbound links!

4. Optimize your site for conversion

Once you start to generate traffic from your SEO efforts, you need to convert that traffic into leads. Your site is not to act as a brochure; its purpose is to generate new leads! Once visitors hit your site, your objective is to keep them there and motivate them to take action. Offering valuable content like guides, eBooks, tips & tricks, cheat sheets, and other thought leadership content is a great way to increase leads. Place this content on dedicated landing pages with forms, so you can collect their contact information in exchange for your valued content.

Also include forms to contact you, request a quote or estimate, or other “sales-ready” calls-to-action. But don’t just offer a “Contact Us” form. Not everyone who visits your site is ready to speak with you. Provide other opportunities for conversion along every stage of your buyer’s research process.

5. Add your business to online directories

As mentioned, consumers are more likely to research a local vendor, handyman, car mechanic, doctor or any local business online. In addition to getting found on search engines like Google and Yahoo, it’s also equally important to list your business on major websites that provide ratings and reviews for various services. Check out “The Ultimate List: 50 Local Business Directories” to find the ones that are best for you.

6. Reach your prospects and customers on social media

Social media isn’t a fad. It’s a revolution. Consider this for example:

  • There are 800+ million people on Facebook
  • Social media was the leading “emerging channel” for lead generation in 2011
  • 63% of companies using social media say it has increased marketing effectiveness – among other benefits.

The data doesn’t lie. More and more people are using social media to interact with local companies over traditional communication channels. For example, my friend, who owns a painting company, uses Facebook to post photos of his latest projects and has developed a fan base of existing customers who frequently “like” and comment on his work. It helps keep his business “top of mind” and increases referrals from existing clients.

Josh Mendelson, Vice President of Chadwich Martin Bailey, states:

“While social media is not the silver bullet that some pundits claim it to be, it is an extremely important and relatively low cost touch point that has a direct impact on sales and positive word-of-mouth. Companies not actively engaging are missing a huge opportunity and are saying something to consumers  intentionally or unintentionally – about how willing they are to engage on consumers’ terms.”

You don’t need to be on every social network. Some might be more important to you than others. But figure out where your buyers are and make sure you are there too.

Local lead generation doesn’t have to break the bank. Apply these tips starting today to grow your small business, and if you are looking for more tips customized to your business, run a free marketing analysis of your company at http://Marketing.Grader.com for a full report of what you are doing right and where you can improve.

Mike Volpe is the CMO of HubSpot, which makes an all-in-one marketing software system including social media and bloggingsearch engine optimization (SEO)lead generation,marketing analyticsemail and marketing automation, and lead management software used by over 6,000 companies.

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